A proposal seeking to slash the Political Parties Fund has sparked criticism from political players.
The parties argue the amount currently being allocated is still insufficient to support a robust multi-party democratic culture.
The proposal is in an amendment to the Political Parties Act, 2011, contained in the Statute Laws (Miscellaneous) Bill, 2020, currently before the National Assembly. Should the Bill be passed, the government will have discretion to allocate the political parties funds.
The Omnimus Bill under the Political Parties Act 2011 amendment, proposes that section 24 (1) be deleted and be replaced with the following words: “that such fund, not being less than 0.3 per cent of the national government shareable revenues net of mandatory and non-discretionary expenditures of the government.”
In addition, the Registrar of Political Parties will also be affected since the office is entitled to 10 per cent of the money allocated to the Political Parties Fund.
Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) and political parties leaders are now accusing the government of initiating the process of amending the law, yet it has not fully implemented the clause that allows political parties to get state funding.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said the proposed amendment does not specify if and which audited National Government Revenue should be used and for which period.
“The non-discretional expenditures are those expenses nobody can measure and would easily be manipulated by the disbursing government agency. It will defeat purpose of the Political Parties if the 0.3 per cent allocation is calculated on net after the national government expenses, debt repayments, military expenditures and other operating expenses whose payments and amounts are never within the knowledge of anyone,” said Sifuna.
CMD argued that even with the Act in place, the government has consistently failed to honour the constitutional provision to make this limited amount of money available for political parties.
“We find it unacceptable, malicious and disrespectful that through the proposed Statute Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2020, the National Treasury intends to entirely do away with this critical constitutional provision and entitlement for political parties,” said CMD Executive Director Frank Mukwanja.
CMD argues that the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments Bill, 2020) is extremely unfair to political parties since the retention of the minimum 0.3 per cent funding is necessitated by the fact that political parties need structures and influence to play a major role in moving the country forward in the reform agenda.
The fund is aimed at strengthening party programmes, addressing institutional and structural lapses and enhancing capacity for policy formulation and implementation. “The under-funding to political parties has greatly affected party institutionalisation and lowered the desired proper management of parties,” said Mukwanja.
Political parties form an essential part of the governance landscape as they seek to develop policy, recruit future representatives and leaders and prepare them to take the country’s leadership.
The 10th Parliament established the Political Parties Fund for specific purpose of improving democratic governance in Kenya, a necessity that led to an amendment to the Political Parties Act, 2011, requiring funding of at least 0.3 per cent of the latest audited revenue collected by the national government.
In addition, political parties are required to establish their head offices, which have to be registered within Kenya, with headquarters being accessible and secure.
And with the correct disbursement, political parties will be in a position to attract qualified staff to effectively run party scheduled activities while remaining responsible and accountable.
“It should worry every Kenyan that the many poorly managed parties should actually be the ultimate country managers. Political parties need experienced staff and professionals in their ranks to help foster democracy,” said Mukwanja in a statement.
According to Mukwanja, political parties are in early stages of the 2022 General Election and are organising their programmes, including grassroots elections as well as party primaries and slashing the funds will deal a death blow to their plans.
However, CMD cautioned the political parties to up their game because tax paying Kenyans want a return on investment in the monies they are putting into their political parties.
“We demand that as the public watchdog, our political parties must lead by example in as far as accountability is concerned,” said Mukwanja.